Research Specialist (Focused Ion Beam SEM) – Laboratory of Dr. Harald Hess and Advanced Imaging Center (AIC)

Research Specialist (Focused Ion Beam SEM) – Laboratory of Dr. Harald Hess and Advanced Imaging Center (AIC)

Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)

Ashburn, VA, United States

Job Description

Job Summary:

Focused Ion Beam – Scanning Electron Microscopy (FIB-SEM) has been established as a core imaging technology at Janelia.  We are using a large fleet of FIB-SEMs to construct connectomes, including a current project aimed at producing a complete connectome of the adult central nervous system of the fruitfly, Drosophila melanogaster. The brain connectomic study has benefitted from the automated imaging and isometric voxel dimensions of the FIB-SEM customized at Janelia for long-term stability. To widen the impact of this approach, Janelia also plans to leverage the high resolution capabilities of FIB-SEM for the study of smaller sample/higher resolution applications, largely in cell biology.  We plan to introduce the FIB-SEM technology into Janelia’s Advanced Imaging Center (AIC) within the coming year to further explore and enable these applications.

The AIC at Janelia Research Campus is jointly sponsored by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (GBMF). Its mission is to make cutting-edge, pre-commercial microscopes developed at Janelia available to visiting scientists, maximizing the impact of the latest developments in optical instruments and emerging microscopy technologies.

The research specialist, experienced in FIB-SEM, will jointly serve the FIB-SEM brain connectomics project as well the AIC.  Relative commitment to each area will change as the needs in each area develop.  The research specialist will support the connectomics efforts and assist in the introduction of FIB-SEM in the AIC.  Once the technology is firmly established in the AIC, the research specialist may shift focus back to connectomics, or become the resident expert to support the wide variety of applications brought to the AIC for FIB-SEM analysis.


Principal Responsibilities:

The FIB-SEM research specialist will be part of the ongoing FIB-SEM brain connectome team and also part of the AIC.  The research specialist will be a primary source of FIB-SEM applications knowledge and expertise for all AIC users.

Specific responsibilities include:

  • Operate, maintain and troubleshoot highly customized FIB-SEM microscopes at expert level for the benefit of the fly connectome and other users.
  • Evaluate EM samples for quality and optimal imaging parameters
  • Prepare samples for trimming to areas of interest and mounting on the FIB-SEM
  • Post processing and analysis of FIB-SEM images
  • Provide technical consultation to prospective applicants to the AIC prior to proposal submission.
  • Serve on AIC Technical Review Panel to review the feasibility and technical justification of the submitted proposals.
  • Collaborate with AIC users to understand the objectives and requirements of their scientific imaging needs, planning for effective visits to the AIC.



  • Ph.D. with at least two years of hands-on experience using electron microscopy to image biological samples, or equivalent experience.
    • Ability to operate, maintain, and troubleshoot complex custom imaging instrumentation required
    • Ability to assist in troubleshooting and resolving issues with sample preparation, imaging system performance, configuration and usage, in order to produce superior imaging results for AIC users required
    • Experience in image processing and analysis methods, including the use of existing 3D image analysis and rendering software
    • Additional experience with common fluorescence microscopy techniques (epifluorescence, confocal etc) is preferred.
  • Candidates with extensive experience in and solid technical understanding of advanced EM techniques especially FIB-SEM or serial block face SEM (SBF-SEM) are strongly encouraged to apply. Experience with high-pressure freezing/freeze substitution desirable.
  • Experience in electronics, ultra high vaccum technology, computer hardware architecture, Windows and Linux operating systems, LabVIEW, Matlab, Fiji, ImageJ, Amira, and Python desirable.
  • Strong social skills to be a good team player
  • Ability to effectively communicate both remotely and in-person (written and verbal) with AIC users, sharing outcomes of evaluations and experiments, and guiding future efforts to optimize results required
  • Ability to evaluate proposals for technical feasibility and manage progress on many projects concurrently
  • Ability to perform long, iterative sessions of imaging and analysis and data interpretation required, and ability to occasionally return to work on short notice or after normal hours in the event of microscope malfunction or interruption required.
  • Ability to collaborate closely with AIC users, providing training, experimental design, and execution, as well as data analysis and interpretation required.


Additional Information:

Candidates with experience in providing service-oriented scientific support (such as in core facilities) are encouraged to apply.


HHMI is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

Required Skills

Required Experience

Please apply via recruiter’s website.

Quote Reference: Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)-hhmi-750-908